All Hail TV’s Hannibal: A Sort-Of ReviewApril 29, 2014
When I found out last year that the wonderfully twisted world of Hannibal Lecter was coming to TV as a series, I was instantly torn. The idea of expanding or looking back on the life of Hannibal the Cannibal was very intriguing. However, being on network TV would surely limit what and/or how they could tell the stories they wanted to.
Boy, was I wrong.
On April 4th, I was completely shocked at how much physical violence and gore was shown then and still is today in Season two.
The psychological part of the show is even more disturbing, shifting back and forth between the reality of actual psychotic behavior and bizarre yet important hallucinations. This combination is some of the most disturbing imagery I’ve seen on television since the underappreciated Chris Carter show Millennium in the nineties.
It is hard to imagine getting past the powerful and riveting performance by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. His total immersion in the character of Hannibal Lecter made you cringe at the mere sight of him.
Much to my surprise, Mads Mikkelsen has been able to put that performance out of my mind and let me fully appreciate what he has brought to the table. (No pun intended) This is no slight on Mikkelsen as an actor, but a compliment in the highest order.
The key to making Lecter both powerful and horrifying is to do it in measured strokes. By that I mean showing his actions to be very deliberate and planned as he is a very meticulous monster. Mikkelsen has the same aura around him playing Lecter, menacing yet someone you could fully believe holds high end dinner parties for the upper echelon of society.
In the beginning of Season One of the TV series, Lecter is brought in as a consultant in the hunt for a serial killer and it is here that he meets Will Graham. Graham is FBI. Sort of. Retired and now teaching, he is dragged back into the fray by an old FBI friend Jack Crawford, played by Lawrence Fishburne.
Lecter’s role as a consultant is fascinating. In the beginning, he is not consulting on crimes but rather the ‘unofficial’ psychiatrist for Graham. Graham’s ability to put himself in the killer’s shoes by mentally recreating the murders he is investigating takes a heavy toll on him. In fact, it was this mental anguish and stress that led him to retire in the first place.
Lecter is fascinated with Graham on two different levels. As a psychiatrist, he is impressed with Graham’s abilities and insights. As a serial killer, he also gives him the respect he is due while seeing him as a serious threat to his extracurricular activities.
As the season progresses, the hunt for the killer begins to take its toll on Graham’s mental health and his grip on reality. It is at this point that Hannibal sees an opening he can exploit. Lecter the psychiatrist begins to manipulate Graham during their sessions, pushing his fragile hold on his sanity to the brink.
Even though he is the killer the FBI are looking for, Lecter has been able to hide in plain sight for awhile but knows it is only a matter of time until Graham learns the truth. He pushes his manipulation to a new level, and soon Graham doubts his sanity and the FBI are wondering if he is in fact the killer.
As Season one draws to a close, we see Graham arrested for some of Lecter’s murders and his realization that Lecter is the serial killer he has been hunting all along. The final frame of Graham in jail with Lecter on the outside visiting him is pure gold.
Obviously, the relationship between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham is the major plot point of the show, but there are many other characters/story arcs during Season One that have huge impacts on both of these men.
I don’t want to give up all the surprising twists and turns so I’ll leave that bit of information hanging out there, let’s call it my way of baiting the hook to get people to watch this show.However, even I was shocked at the way Season Two exploded out of the gate. The opening few minutes set the table for what has turned out to be an even better season than the first. I can’t wait to see how it all shakes out in the end.
While the acting and writing are superb, this is not a series for the squeamish. This is one of those times that the ‘Viewer Discretion Is Advised’ warning is one I agree with. The blood and gore is very graphic and the mental anguish and struggles of some of the characters is sometimes difficult to watch.
Okay, there are a lot of ‘troubled’ people in this show but none more so than the two leads, Lecter and Graham.
One of my favorite aspects of this show has to be how nothing is ever cut and dried. The line separating the good guys and bad guys gets very blurred, and everyone on the show is cast in the light of imperfection.
With ratings ranging from average to downright poor, it was amazing to see the show renewed for a second season. That being said, as ratings continue to be low I don’t know if Hannibal will see a third season.
If you have ever enjoyed any of the books or movies about Hannibal, do yourself a favor and tune into this show. As a matter a fact, it should be given a chance just because of the high levels of acting, writing and production that go into every episode.
Invite Hannibal into your living room, you won’t be disappointed.
Go on, I dare you.
This post was written for publication on the GCE by Jeff Fountain.